As much as we like to think we can have it all, all at once, the BBC’s Babies in the Office programme about Addison Lee’s radical scheme offers clear evidence that children in the workplace doesn’t tend to make for an easy life. So, for the majority of us, that stick turning blue means we need to find the best way to break the news to our employer and negotiate the tricky terrain of maternity or paternity leave.
Start the conversation early
As a pregnant employee, you have the right to 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave, which combined makes up the 52 weeks of guaranteed Statutory Maternity Leave.
However, the earlier you tell your employer of your decision to take leave, the more accommodating they’re likely to be and the more time you have to arrange cover and ensure a smooth transition.
Regardless, you have inform them 15 weeks before the beginning of your due week to qualify for full Statutory Maternity Leave (or as soon as possible if you couldn’t at that stage – for example, if you didn’t know you were pregnant).
Put it in writing
You need to inform your employer of your situation in writing, even if you’ve already done so verbally. Use our ‘Maternity leave letter’ to give them the legally required information that ensures your leave, such as when the baby is due and when you want to start and finish your leave.
Your employer may also ask for a MAT B1 maternity certificate, which confirms the due date. You can get one from your doctor or midwife once you’ve been pregnant for at least 21 weeks.
If for any reason you need to change start date of your leave, use this letter to make a formal request. You’ll need to give your employer at least 28 days’ notice before the new start date (if you’re bringing it forward) or 28 days’ notice before the original start date (if you want to push it back).
Do you qualify?
You’re entitled to Ordinary Paternity Leave (up to two weeks) if you’re taking time off to support the mother or carer of the baby and you are the:
- Biological father
- Child’s adopter
- Or husband/partner of the biological or adoptive mother
This also applies to same-sex relationships.
Note that you’ll need to have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks by either the end of the 15th week before the due week or the end of the week you’re notified of an adoptive match to guarantee leave.
Your leave can start on any day of the week (but not before the baby is born) and must finish within 56 days of the birth. You can change the start date of your leave as long as you give at least 28 days’ notice.
If you’re a worker rather than an employee, you won’t qualify for automatic leave, but you may still qualify for Ordinary Statutory Paternity Pay (which is paid for up to two consecutive weeks).
Some employers have their own leave arrangements, which are more generous than the statutory entitlement. Check your employment contract or contact HR to find out what your company offers.
Put it in writing
Notify your employer with this letter that you want to take Ordinary Paternity Leave and – if applicable – receive Ordinary Statutory Paternity Pay. You’ll need to give them legally required information, such as when the baby is due and when you want to start and finish your leave. You must inform them at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the due week.
Use this letter if you want to request paternity leave – and pay if applicable – for an adoption. The notice period is within seven days of being informed by the adoption agency that you’ve been matched with a child.
If you’re not sure whether you’re entitled to leave and/or pay, these letters will help you clarify your situation. Even if you don’t have a statutory entitlement, your employer may still grant you either/both at their discretion.
Mums and Dads
If you’re experiencing problems or you have any further questions, please get in touch with us.
Clearly communicate your company’s maternity and paternity leave rights in your Employee Handbook. Make sure you update it in line with current employment legislation and contact our expert team if you have any queries.